"Project Dawn," through July 9 at People's Light in Malvern, is one of the very best productions of this season. Set in a real-life Philly court for women repeatedly arrested for sex trafficking, it's more adult and has fewer illusions, and yet believes harder, than the next five plays you'll see.
The reopening show for the two-years-dark Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven was "Footloose." Despite gremlins in the set, a cranky sound system, a not terribly distinguished musical, and vocal uncertainties in the first act, it won over the audience. Pleasure and happiness - happiness just to be here - ran throughout the game cast.
"Buddy: The Buddy Holly Musical" has completed its trek from the Bucks County Playhouse to the Kimmel Center. It starts its run on June 24. Many logistical issues had to be faced in the hand-off, including getting a new stage turntable. We watch the process.
The Princeton Festival's "Man of La Mancha" is a summer gem. With folks who can sing and act a lick, great songs, and the classic story, it's an intimate, existential rendering that triumphs over some workshoppy aspects to deliver a truly moving performance.
Drama, musicals, comedy, satire, Shakespeare, farce, gospel - from S. Broad St. to The Shore, from Rose Valley to Center Valley, this summer will be rich with theater, boosted by a reinvigorated beach theater scene, "Buddy" traveling from New Hope to Center City, another tuneful Broadway series from the Kimmel; the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival; and local gems like "HIR," "Around the World in 80 Days," and "Tommy and Me."
Jesus and Jefferson In "The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord," at the Lantern Theater through July 2, the three great men, together in the afterlife, discuss the life of Jesus. At 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, the Lantern brings in historians John C. Van Horne and Charles T. Cullen for a post-show talk on what Jefferson believed.
On Friday, WHYY's "Fresh Air" will celebrate 30 years as a national daily show. Host Terry Gross will interview Seth Meyers, and much will be the nostalgia. But something else big has happened: "Fresh Air," more than 8,000 segments over 7,000 shows, has been turned into a digital archive online. The next step is an easy-to-use, easy-to-search database for everybody.
It's a joyous, liberating story that's all Philly. Musician and writer James McBride has helped create the program for Sunday's concert by the Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale. It tells the story of the Underground Railroad, and of the resilient country that worked its way through the blight of slavery. McBride, whose son Nathan sings in the choir, worked with conductor and artistic director Jeffrey Smith for two months on the program.
If you have a shred of soul, you're going to love the music. If you have any dancing in you, you'll love the dancing. "Motown: The Musical" is back, running at the Academy of Music through June 11. There's a whole lot to love, including (with some reservations) the story it tells.
John Timpane is the books/fine arts editor/writer for the Inquirer. His beat includes books, social media, dance, theater, art, museums, and classical music. From 1997 to 2008 he was the Commentary page editor.